Reward processing and conscious awareness

Mathias Pessiglione, Liane Schmidt, Stefano Palminteri and Chris D. Frith

in Decision Making, Affect, and Learning

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199600434
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725623 | DOI:

Series: Attention and Performance

Reward processing and conscious awareness

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Can our behaviour be motivated by environmental signals that we are not aware of? This chapter casts light on this question, with a series of experiments investigating whether the human brain can deal with the reward-predicting properties of visual stimuli that subjects cannot consciously perceive. The experimental paradigms designed for this purpose bring together procedures that have been used for decades in separate scientific fields: subliminal perception on one side and incentive motivation on the other. It first sketches a short history of methods and concepts used in these two fields, and then presents psychophysics studies combining the two approaches to explore subliminal motivation in humans. Previous studies have shown that the human brain is able to translate higher subliminal incentives into higher physical effort, and to use subliminal cues that predict gambles outcomes to make profitable decisions. The chapter presents several novel variants of the original paradigms to further explore the roles of top-down attention, strategic control, and associative learning in conscious and subconscious incentive motivation.

Keywords: environmental signals; human brain; reward; visual stimuli; subliminal perception; incentive motivation

Chapter.  9676 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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